Cleveland Cavaliers Have a Few Post-Luol Deng Trades to Make

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Cleveland Cavaliers Have a Few Post-Luol Deng Trades to Make
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers greatly improved the outlook of the immediate future by acquiring Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls. And while there's a decent chance that this is the biggest deal we'll see go down all year, the Cavs can't rest on their laurels quite yet.

Trades of this magnitude typically don't require a big follow-up deal, but then again, teams that are 11 games under .500 aren't often the ones buying.

While Deng should solve quite a bit of Cleveland's problems on the wing, particularly defensively, it's dangerous to view him as a franchise savior. While it's true that a player of Deng's abilities should be able to carry Cleveland to a playoff appearance, the Cavs still have plenty of areas to address if they want to damage once they're actually in the postseason.

Luckily, Cleveland can accomplish this fairly easily, depending on who or what they're willing to give up. So long as this current squad isn't viewed as one that can realistically contend, the Cavaliers have a serious opportunity to improve further at the deadline.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

 

Pieces To Move

Cavs general manager Chris Grant has to decide on what he's willing to dangle and what he wants to keep. Guys like Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson could be either viewed as important pieces for the future or trade chips to land more reliable, established players.

Any big move the Cavs make will likely require the forfeiture of one of these young players. The Cavs still have plenty of room under the luxury tax and future draft picks to trade, but it would make more sense to center something around the expiring deals and the prospects who may not fit alongside Kyrie Irving.

The good news is, incoming salary in a potential trade shouldn't be much of an issue. The idea of preserving cap space going forward is no longer a top priority, as Cleveland wouldn't have dealt for Deng if they felt they couldn't retain him, as Grant explained to Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"We're bringing him here and we'd like to keep him here long term,'' Grant said of Deng. "He's 28 years old. We see him as part of our core and our youth moving forward."

That makes the expiring contracts on the roster pretty much dead weight at this point, especially when you consider that Deng will be absorbing most of their playing time. Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark and C.J. Miles are all small forwards on expiring deals (or contracts that are non-guaranteed next year), and all three are plenty expendable now.

With the ability to stack those contracts up and add a sweetener, the Cavs could bring back a pretty good piece in a deal so long as they are willing to forfeit some depth.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

 

Desired Return

The question is, what holes need to be addressed the most now that Deng has plugged by far the biggest one? Anderson Varejao isn't quite what he once was, but he's still a very effective and smart player. You can advance deep in the playoffs with him as your starting center.

Of course, that's neglecting to mention his shaky health history, which has certainly come into play many times before. The Cavs are one Varejao injury away from starting either Thompson or Tyler Zeller at the 5, which certainly wouldn't be ideal, especially defensively.

Adding another piece who can shift between the 4 and the 5 might be the best bet for Cleveland. Thompson has proven to be a capable offensive rebounder, but there are concerns over whether you can have a top-10 defense with him playing a critical role.

Under Mike Brown and his basic offense, getting better defensively and sneaking into that top 10 in efficiency might be the most obvious avenue to improvement.

Defensive-minded big men certainly don't grow on trees, but there may be a few available who could fit in nicely with what Cleveland wants to do now and going forward.

Bill Baptist/Getty Images

 

Potential Fits

A player like Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders should be on the top of potential targets to go after.

Perhaps Milwaukee is having regrets about the four-year extension worth $44 million that was given to Sanders this offseason, as his temper issues have flared up while the Bucks have self-destructed.

With John Henson ready for a full-time starting role, maybe Milwaukee would accept cap relief and a young player like Waiters or Bennett in a deal.

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Or maybe the talks for Houston Rockets center Omer Asik could be reignited. So long as Cleveland is willing to sacrifice a future first-round pick, something might be able to get done on that front.

The Cavs could go another route as well and try to land a good two-way player at shooting guard. Although the price may be high, inquiring about Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo would be a good option. 

Afflalo is a very good spot-up shooter, but he's also thrived as a player that can have the offense run through him at the elbow. The ability to shift seamlessly is something that's needed next to a ball-dominant player like Irving, and it's something Waiters hasn't been able to do.

The most important point in all this is that Cleveland has the ability to keep dealing. The Cavs got substantially better with Deng, but further work is required to turn this roster into a legitimate contender.

At this point, it makes sense for Cleveland to go all-in and make the best possible effort in order to retain Deng. There's no room for half-measures anymore. 

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